In Search of Donna Reed
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This work on Donna Reed reveals a woman whose intelligence and force of character often put her at odds with the roles she portrayed both on and off the screen. Always angered by the treatment of women in Hollywood, she turned political activist in middle age, confronting the arrogance of power.
future that included Ronald Reagan as a friend, she would have been astounded. In the summer of 1936, Donnabelle participated in an event that seems portentous now. The Majestic Motion Picture Company of Los Angeles was touring towns in the Midwest, shooting documentaries and story shorts with local casts. A unit came to Denison in August with the announced intention of showing how sound movies were produced. Donnabelle auditioned at the Ritz Theater and was excited to get a part in Runnin'
politically. The Republican conservatism of her Iowa upbringing was giving way to a decided liberalism. Like Bill, she admired and supported Roosevelt and Henry Wallace. After reading World's End by Upton Sinclair, she couldn't sleep. ''It paints a clear, and probably very authentic, picture of prewar and postwar days of World War I," she reported to Joyce Anderson. "Sinclair tells about the things that happened and were kept out of the newspapers and away from the populace. He spends a great
financial failure of It's a Wonderful Life. In the forties' world of Hollywood, run by and for men, she was an easy target. In 1948 Donna was scheduled to appear opposite Van Johnson in The Stratton Story, but he was judged wrong for the ballplayer and replaced by James Stewart. Stung by the public rejection of Wonderful Life, Stewart rejected Donna as leading lady; and she was replaced by the ubiquitous June Allyson. Donna, who had already been costumed for the role, heard that Stewart was
and said "Uhhhh-Huuuuuh!" but kept chattering about Baby Leroy after the bus stopped. Finally, Donna asked, "Aunt Mildred, could you tell me what it is about the Eiffel Tower that reminds you of Baby Leroy?" And she answered pertly, "Oh nothing! But I saw his name on a building way back there; it said L-E-R-O-I!" Donna wanted a relative of Mildred's generation along as she tried to trace ancestral roots near London. "I looked for more Mullengers on tombstones in ancient English cemeteries
visitors. Pat Scott offered to bring her husband, Randy, over to North Linden, but Donna said, "Oh no, I'm so jaundiced I think it might Page 197 upset Randy." She sounded very weak when speaking with friends and relatives on the phone. On the evening of January 11, Tony Junior visited and watched a television game show with her. When it was over, she complained of tiredness and they said goodnight. "As I walked out of the house that night I knew it would be the last time I would see my